It's time to rear turkeys for Christmas on your smallholding.
7:40pm Monday 2nd July 2012 in Poultry
Our poultry expert answers.
Three or four turkeys can be housed in an 8ft x 6ft garden shed overnight. It is also large enough to keep them in throughout the day on occasions when the weather is too inclement to let them out. A 6ft x 4ft shed would accommodate up to six turkeys that are being reared for the table but they would need to be outside during the day as this space is far too small for them to be kept in during the day.
The shed would need ventilation putting in near the top of one side, opposite the prevailing winds and cover it with small mesh wire netting, doubly securing the edges with wooden battens.
Young turkeys should not have perches until around 12 weeks of age - although from 2-3 weeks they try to fly up and perch. The reason for this is that the breast bone is growing and perching can dent it, which certainly does not look good on a carcass. The perches should be about 2 ins in circumference and about 2ft, to just over 2ft from the floor.
Some penning during the day will be required unless you let them roam freely on your premises. Be sure though to get them into the housing long before the sun begins to drop or they will be up in the trees for the night. Turkeys are not fox proof and if left out will almost certainly be taken before you are up in the morning.
It is tempting fate to leave them in an outdoor run, because foxes will be able to see them and then be working hard on a way to get to them. Also, if the weather turns very bad in late autumn, although they are hardy they will 'do' better inside rather than sleeping out.
If you already have an appropriate shed or outhouse that could be converted.
Now is the time to order poults for Christmas Housing and further information on turkeys is contained in the book 'Not Just for Christmas' - the complete guide to raising turkeys by Janice Houghton-Wallace.
Janice has a guide to keeping turkeys for Christmas in the current AUGUST issue on sale now.